Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: July 2017
Friday, 28 July 2017 09:38

Mining sector vs area dev policies

PRESIDENT Duterte, at the start of his off-the-cuff remarks in his 2017 State of the Nation Address last Monday, said that the lengthy feature of ABS-CBN’s Ted Failon on the damage wrought by mining on natural ecosystems that poor families depend on for their food and life, moved him so much that he threatened the mining industry with being “taxed to death” if they did not restore the damage.

In my two previous columns here, I have been pushing the point that “sectorism” (defined as dominant public policies that primarily empower a sector at the expense of areas), introduced together with colonialism in the 16th century (496 years ago) continues to drive the whole economy and defines how average Filipinos experience living in these islands. It certainly provides little comfort for the majority.

President Duterte closed his SONA by saying, ““Believe me, it is easier to build from scratch than to dismantle the rotten and rebuild upon its rubble. Let us work together and lay a new foundation in which a better Philippines can be reconstructed. Help me build a better tomorrow.”.

This statement could not be any more true than for our mining sector, which largely, against our very constitutional mandate to protect Philippine territory—whose subsoil with a mere 1 percent mineral content miners ship out to China and Japan in volumes of over 40 million metric tons a year—needs to be dismantled and totally rebuilt upon. Rebuilt specifically along the lines of Areaism, or area development policies.

DU30 being fed wrong info

All the mining policies being implemented now allows them, aided and abetted by a compliant MGB unit of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), to provide the substance of the Failon mining impact feature that made a big impression on the President. And it is an ugly presentation of photo and video documentation of brutalized local areas. But imagine if we recoil at the images, imagine what it is like to actually be from those areas and facing the full brunt of living dangerously with orange toxic floodwaters.

Under previous administrations, large mining companies enjoyed unhampered permission to violate environmental laws and were caught off guard only when Duterte appointed Gina Lopez environment secretary, and who made the effort to fly over and visit mine sites to assess for herself. This resulted in closures and suspension orders that, to this day, about five months later, are still “being reviewed” by Malacañang. Thus, the environmental impacts are being felt, especially in Surigao Sur and Norte, Dinagat and Agusan Norte, to this day without let-up.

It is obvious that the President is being fedtwisted mining information by the sectorists (those who espouse sectorism, or the power of sectors over areas) led by Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez; like when Duterte started his remarks on mining by saying in so many words “because of the threat of a mandamus that can be filed by the miners we have no choice but to allow them to continue but they must repair the damage or I will tax them to death”. The President also said he wants minerals to stay in the country for further processing to aid in our industrialization. Well and good, and yes, these are good “areaism” statements. However, areaists like me cannot be misled by what is really happening. Sectorism will continue to prevail as there was zero articulation of controlling sectorists in mining and placing them under areaism policies.

There were some misleading sectorist statements of the President, such as when he said that mining contributes P70 billion annually to the treasury when in truth that is the total sales of the whole industry. Its financial contribution to government coffers is a measly P15 billion as of a few years back. Also, when Duterte said we have respect mining contracts because of a possible “mandamus” against the government, which isn’t really true because of the well-documented gross environmental law violations by miners. Further, the old-hat promise of “minerals needed for industrialization” which was also used as a gimmick when the Mining Act was being pushed, will not likely happen given the lack of interest from miners who can make humongous amounts of dollar profits with minimal, I mean really minimal, effort and risk (putting soil on ships seems to have zero risk). Why put up mineral processing?

Areaist reforms in mining

What are mining area-based reforms that are badly needed? Areaism policies are those that enhance an Area’s resident households and ecosystems net worth over time while providing a dignified standard of living (good education, cultural development, increasing social capital).

For one, extracting subsoil (up to 20 meters deep) for shipment abroad by clearing all-important trees at the top of watersheds, and under-providing siltation capture ponds that means certain death for the ridge-to-reef interacting ecosystems that provide the platform for farmers, fishers and all of the local ancillary services to make it happen, must stop. This violates current forestry laws and the Clean Water Act and marine protection laws and is simply not allowed but is allowed to continue by the non (or really delayed) action on former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez’s orders which have all been appealed by miners to the Office of the President. He has probably been misled, even if he is a lawyer, that he cannot touch or close them because they are compliant with just one law: the Mining Act of 1995. That may be true but that Act also says that all environmental laws and the Constitution must be followed as well. So, areaism would implement all environmental laws strictly just like what Secretary Lopez did as she is a genuine Areaist.

Another areaist mining policy would be to ensure that local value-added is sustainable and maximized from the minerals while still providing profits to risk capital to develop the mine site. Households from the area must directly benefit not just from income flows but from improving assets, natural, human, and manufactured, to assure future generations of the area that they were not simply robbed by sectorists.

In sum, the President’s SONA was disappointing from an area policy perspective and is another indication that this at-first-hopefully areaist President has been captured by the sectorists. Too bad as President Duterte himself said that it is easier to build from scratch a new way, but I heard no boldness coming from him at all in this compartment of the Philippines. Again, only a genuine areaist political party that takes over the government has any chance now to rebuild this country, area by area, with areaist policies.
Published in Commentaries
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte delivered his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, July 24.

I am sure many of my colleagues in the opinion-making business, the academic pundits, the rogue and not-so-rogue scholars, will have their own take on the SONA. Post-SONA punditry is a cottage industry in the same manner that making fashion commentaries about what the people who attended the SONA wore is also a thriving business.

I am not going to add my voice anymore, except to say that whatever the President said in the SONA, he has already claimed a unique place in our country’s political history. Love him or hate him, this President has destabilized so many grounds, and has assaulted so many comfort zones, that he became a living deconstruction of the state of the nation that we inherited from those who preceded him.

Having said this, I would like to take this opportunity to wish that the President should endeavor to heal the asymmetrical divisions that have festered over a nation dominated by the anger that has produced his presidency.

I fully concur with the succinct analysis of Professor Randy David. President Duterte has become a leader of an angry nation, one that is polarized between an angry pro-Duterte majority, and an equally angry anti-Duterte minority.

I say this fully aware of what distinguishes Filipino society, as validated not only by our own self-imaging of ourselves, but also by foreign observers.

At the height of the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda, CNN’s Anderson Cooper marveled at how we can easily break into laughter amidst the death and destruction. He saw us as a people with a strong sense of community, and a robust capacity to rise up after a fall.

We see ourselves as a resilient, happy people. We draw much of our strength from our sense of shared selves, or what Sikolohiyang Pilipino labels as “kapwa”. We use humor as a coping mechanism, even as we celebrate our sense of community as our political refuge.

I once compared the Philippines with Thailand. The source of Thailand’s social cohesion which enabled it to weather the storm of political instability throughout its history is the calming presence of its revered King. In contrast, the Philippines doesn’t have a King, but we have an enormous sense of community that is sustained by a robust supply of social capital that enables us to have a high level of trust even during times of crisis. This is our silent and organic “monarchy,” one that enables us to act collectively despite the weakness of our political institutions.

We value our shared self, or “kapwa,” as the one that propels us to look at other people not as subordinates to be dominated, or as strangers to be avoided, but as members of our political community that we have to deal with, accept and respect.

While this may have been the cause of our easy subjugation by foreign colonial powers, it was also the powerful tool that enabled us to weather the challenges that we faced in our history, from corrupt and inept politicians to natural calamities.

But the festering corruption and social exclusion that the ordinary Filipino has experienced from elite rule, which bore the imprint of colonial and post-colonial structures of inequalities, have over-extended the willingness of the people to accommodate an oppressive and elitist other.

Political ruptures in our history, from the Philippine Revolution to the EDSA people-powered military rebellion, have become episodes that were interrupted by elite betrayal. The former was when we were sold by Spain to the Americans that paved the way for the entrenchment of pro-US Filipino elites, and the latter was when the pre-martial law oligarchs stole in EDSA the thunder from a developing revolution that led to the entrenchment of the yellow elites.

This elitist exclusion led to layers of pent-up resentments and frustrations from a people betrayed. It exploded into anger that led to the victory of President Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 elections. And this anger continues to sustain him until now.

On the other side, the Duterte election victory has displaced the elites so used to their entitlements, and have been spoiled by their ability to sequester political power for the good part of 30 years. They demonized Marcos. They ousted Erap Estrada. They impeached Renato Corona. And they jailed Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They monopolized the telling of history. These elites, which are now forced into the minority, are understandably equally livid.

And in the middle are people who claim to be neutral but are equally offended by a President who challenges their moral rubrics and social activism, and end up allied with the yellow elites they used to hate.

This is where we are right now, a nation that is ruled by anger and deep divisions.

Our state of the nation is therefore precarious. The anger that rules us threatens to weaken what we have always taken to be our strength. Social media is now inhabited by emotional, mostly blind partisans who troll, curse, insult and disparage those on the other side.

And this social media warfare spills over into real relationships. Friendships are broken. Relationships are strained, even among family members. Social capital is weakened. And the sense of kapwa is assaulted.

The President is a child of this anger, but nevertheless is the leader of the nation that is ruled by it. He has to do something, before this partisan divisions and hatred consume us and jeopardize our future as a nation.

This is the state of the nation that the President must address.
Published in Commentaries
HUMANITY for most of its 250,000 years as a species lived in tribes or collections of tribes, in constant struggle against other tribes, or predators. We haven’t really changed. We still choose and admire leaders who demonstrate that particular quality: bravery. After all, we want a leader who’d fight for us, don’t we?

It is not really wisdom we seek of leaders, but bravery.The wise King Solomon is overshadowed by far by King David who was so audacious to take on Goliath, while the Arthurian legends relegated wisdom merely as the function of an adviser, Merlin.

Churchill’s ‘blood-tears-and-sweat” defiance of the Nazis, Mao’s legendary Long March to escape the encircling Kuomintang forces, Ho Chi Minh’s inconceivable fight against two superpowers were instances of leaders’ audacity. In our case, it is difficult for us now to appreciate the boldness of Bonifacio and Aguinaldo in defying not only the superpower of that age, but well, God’s representatives on this earth.

Ramon Magsaysay was our most popular President not because he was the “man of the masses” which was a slogan his American PR handlers concocted; he was admired by Filipinos as the fearless Huk fighter.

Marcos certainly didn’t project himself as from the masses.He had popular support in the early years of his rule, because of his audacity in imposing martial law to defeat the “forces of the Right and the Left”. We even admired the landlord-class Corazon Aquino, the housewife, for her grit in going against a dictator, and assuming the presidency.

Duterte obviously isn’t in the same league as such leaders—so far. But in just a year in office he has demonstrated the audacity we admire of these leaders.

84 percent approval

This explains much of his tremendous popularity and political support. His 78 percent “satisfaction” (net +66), according to the Social Weather Station survey, is the highest since Aquino, for a President in his or her first year of office. PulseAsia’s “approval” rating was higher, at 84 percent.

I suspect Duterte’s support is higher. The voting to extend martial law in Mindanao to the end of the year, as Duterte asked for, reflects his huge political support. While the extension of martial law is a very debatable issue really, 94 percent of the 259 members of the House of Representatives voted for it, not really because they believed it would be good for the country, but because they trusted Duterte who told them it would be good for the country. Only 14 were against it, members of the party-list parties that are fronts of the Communist Party. Talk of fringe groups.

I would bet that if there is a survey on what quality Filipinos most admire of Duterte, what would overwhelmingly emerge isn’t “incorruptibility”, “wisdom in governance,” or even “sympathy for the masses.” It would be”matapang’”: brave. His sigil, the fighting fist, is so appropriate to Duterte’s image among the masses.

While the hoity-toity elites and the Yellow Cult as well were aghast at his curses at the Catholic Church, the oligarchs, the illegal drug gangs, and the US, the masses interpreted this more as challenging these entities to a fight – as curses usually are when uttered in the streets.

Indeed, there never has been a President to lock horns with the Catholic Church, one of the pillars of oligarchic rule in the country, even exposing to the masses what only the elites have known: its nearly systemic sexual depredations against the youth under its care, its wealth.

There has never been a President to challenge the mighty “we-set-the-nation’s-agenda” Philippine Daily Inquirer and the ABS-CBN television network for their elite bias and for their having been the propaganda vehicle for the Yellow Cult since 1986.

Oligarchs

There has never been a President to expose the power of oligarchs that has been very bad for the country, and to move—so far—at least against one such oligarch, the powerful magnate Antonio Floirendo. And to think that Floirendo was one of his biggest campaign financiers.

There has never been a President to go against the US, exposing its continuing hold on our foreign policy since our independence, and to even, in defiance, move the country closer to its rival superpower, China.

And of course, there has never been a President to wage an all-our war on the illegal drug industry, which his predecessors had ignored that our country was on the brink of being transformed into a narco-state. Duterte had such a tenacity in this war that he defied the Western media and NGOs’ screams of human-rights violations. The West was shocked over such Duterte threats as feeding the fish in Manila Bay with the corpses of drug lords. Filipinos saw it as the bravest of words coming from a President.

Any other President would have buckled under the campaign of the New York Times and brown Americans in the US to paint the country as one where the blood of innocents run through the streets every night.

The Marawi crisis, because it has lasted for more than a month now and has created so much destruction, would have drawn so much criticism under any other President, that he would have lost his political base. In Duterte’s case, his PulseAsia approval rating even rose from 78 percent in March to 82 percent, while in the SWS satisfaction ratings, it rose from 75 percent to 78 percent.

Why? A major reason: Two weeks after the terrorists occupied Marawi, Duterte announced that he planned to go there to be “one with his troops.” Although he would get to Marawi only a month later— purportedly because the military found it too risky for the Commander in Chief it would have required redeploying troops away from the front lines—it did send the message: This is a President unafraid to be with his troops in battle. Duterte’s announcement reminded Filipinos that his predecessor Aquino was gallivanting in Cotabato City pretending nothing was happening, while 44 of our elite SAF troops were massacred one by one in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, just a 30-minutehelicopter ride away.

Bravery of course has its limits. For the sake of our country, Duterte needs, perhaps desperately, to find his Merlin or Merlins.
Published in Commentaries
Thursday, 20 July 2017 13:21

Area vs sector policies

IN my previous column, I posited the need to redefine the political spectrum from “left-right” to “area-sector” wherein Area represents the direct interests of local communities and their geography/territory or area, including its physical environment, and Sector represents the specific interests of specific institutions, mostly corporations and enterprises represented by their owners.

Since Area is “community + environment” and Sector is essentially “capital invested in a specific corporation or enterprise,” we can take any economic sector and determine which politics, Area or Sector, is dominant. Dominance is a political expression which ideally would have been articulated as a political platform understood by voters and then executed upon its assumption of political power or governance. But because the political spectrum is still cast in the old “left-right” narrative and the unitary (centralized) structure of the colonial Philippines has been retained in its independence, what we get is a mishmash of policies (mixed left-right as well as mixed area-sector) but with an overall slant towards Sectorism to the detriment of Areaism. The sad part though is that the unitary structure amplifies the weakness of Areaism in the country and necessarily strengthens the Sectorism no matter what political propaganda was used to win the election (thus the need for federalism).

Over the next columns, let us take a cursory look at the important sectors of the Philippine economy and see which politics, Area or Sector, is dominant. Let us start with the energy sector:

Energy policy

Energy is big business in that it requires humongous capital to put up, say, a 600MW plant (billions of pesos). Recently, President Duterte signed EO 30 on June 28, 2017, vouched for by the power oligarchs and Energy SecretaryAlfonso Cusi (the sector leader) who used to work for some of them so that new power plants can set up without any delays from the local and national bureaucracies. The EO will reduce permit-getting time from three years to just 30 days for projects of national significance.

Ostensibly, this long period was specifically mandated by law (can an EO change a law?) so that social and environmental impacts (minor concessions to areaism) could be determined and vetted and even mitigated prior to the operation of the plant. With big money for big projects comes a budget to grease the process along, from the barangay all the way to DENR and to Malacañang, if needed. What a fantastic bonanza this EO will be to the power oligarchs and to the further concentration of Sectorism in the country in the energy sector. The proponents no longer need to go through what was just a little accommodation to “arearism”. Sectorism in the power sector just got more powerful. Will this EO primarily serve the interest of the owners of the powerplants or the communities that purchase its output?

Time and time again it has been shown that the Filipino has been very ill-served by energy oligarchs as shown by the excessive prices paid for this energy and the many environmental and health issues posed to local communities. The only positive thing (for the few) are the humongous profits (higher GDP) ensnared from the tiny pockets of the majority and concentrated with the few owners. Just three family/corporate groups control about 70 percent of all energy generation in the country. Furthermore, these power corporations (many previously were state enterprises, now privatized) and systems leave many peripheral areas with the lousiest of services.

Yet, how would “areaism” energy policies be effected by a government that espoused Area politics? If Areas had even just half the political power of the power oligarchs you would see a better balance between new renewables and climate-changing fossil fuels like coal. Through their controlled media, bureaucrats and politicians, mostly fossil fuel sources are being fast-tracked and helped by this new EO 30 while lip service is paid to renewables. Considering that renewables like solar and wind and biomass sources are safe and non-pollutive, why are new projects given such a difficult time by the law, by the Department of Energy, even by the Supreme Court in certain recent rulings?

Therefore, in a clean slate, government policies would be reformed to dramatically increase renewables to easily make up even up to 75 percent of our power generation, most of which can be produced at the local level for local consumption.

Roof-installed solar panels installed under an incentive program with built-in, government-supported financing could easily generate massive amounts of megawatts of power that can reduce the need for very pollutive coal-fired power plants from existing rooftops of warehouses, factories, malls, schools, community centers like basketball courts etc. DOST and DTI policies would support this thrust by encouraging local manufacture of solar panels, ancillary technologies like power storage (batteries) and attracting and facilitating small and medium investments in this field.

For every hectare of surface area (mined-out land or warehouse rooftops) 1MW of power can be capacitated. This power currently can be generated at a profit when sold for about P5/kwh. With batteries, the cost goes up to about P8. However, there are new technologies in power storage (liquid salt) that may result in even lower costs than this. Already, this is better than diesel and suitable coal (low mercury and sulphur that cause acid rain and agricultural land degradation) but the whole ecosystem of coal power plants (continuous buying and burning of coal, shipping, trade finance, etc.) and the dominance of Sectorism in the energy sector means that we will not have pro-renewable policies even if that were a major benefit to all Filipinos.

What does this say about the Duterte administration? The politician who came in the name of fixing a previously bad area (Davao City) and turned it into a vibrant city-area and who espoused federalism to align the government structure with the basics of Areaism made this columnist feel that Areaism had a chance.

Alas, just one year into his term (and just like what happened to all previous Philippine Presidents) the Duterte administration, as shown in the energy sector, has been re-captured by the Sectorism policies that fail the ordinary Juan in the street. See, they can’t even restore power after major areas were simply hit by an earthquake in the Visayas a week ago. Why do we rely on massive national grids when we are an archipelago that can generate massive amounts of energy locally from biomass and solar? Decentralized and locally owned systems can respond much better in the future where disasters are becoming more common. But that would only happen when a political party founded on Areaism takes power. For now, we can only weep and bemoan the capture of the energy policies by Sectorists from a posturing Areaist President.
Published in Commentaries
MAGNATE Ramon Ang’s acquisition of the Prieto/Rufino clan’s 85 percent controlling shares in the Philippine Daily Inquirer will break Indonesian Anthoni Salim’s dominance of Philippine media, one of the most shameful features of our nation in recent times.

Salim* in 2014 bought (reportedly for P4 billion) from the Belmonte family 70 percent controlling shares in the Philippine Star, one of the three biggest broadsheets in the country, the other two being PDI and the Manila Bulletin. But he also retained his 15 percent shares of PDI that he had bought a decade ago, and rumors have even been circulating that he had been giving the newspaper a financial lifeline.

PDI and Star, as well as another Salim-controlled firm, BusinessWorld have the biggest reporting staffs in the country, and they even boast of winning so many investigative and business journalism awards.

Yet they have never ever reported the incontrovertible reality, and the colossal phenomenon of an Indonesian tycoon Salim being the country’s biggest public utility and media tycoon —in violation of the Constitution — who has transferred starting 2001 about $1 billion of his Philippine firms’ profits to his Bermuda-registered First Pacific Co. Ltd. in Hong Kong.

The Constitution can be violated, while the elite and government have chosen to look away, probably interpreting it as unavoidable ‘globalization’: That is the sad state of nationalism in this country.

Mainstream media have been misleading the nation by referring to Salim’s conglomerate as that of “Manuel V. Pangilinan”. Pangilinan however owns at most only 1 percent in any of these firms and is only Salim’s top executive in the Philippines. Pangilinan can be replaced anytime really by Salim.

Such is the power of media to keep even things that are very important to a country outside of public consciousness. Foreign firms simply believed local media. For instance, Singapore’s Straits Times in an article yesterday matter-of-factly reported that it was “businessman Manuel Pangilinan” who bought into Star. This is fake news: It was a Salim firm, Hastings Holdings, that did.

Pangilinan is a very highly-paid corporate executive, and not a businessman. His investments in PLDT and other Salim firms are mostly token, required in order to qualify him to the board. What he has invested are Salim’s money, and in many enterprises, borrowings from the Philippine capital markets.

These newspapers of course know who their bosses are. They in effect collaborated to keep from public consciousness the fact that the Indonesian tycoon has been riding roughshod over the Constitution’s nationalist provisions.

Things are fast changing though.

In the past 12 months, the Prieto/Rufino clan faced a financial quagmire in two fronts. The Duterte government pressed for its surrender of the prime 2.3-hectare Mile Long property that it had refused to give up even after its lease expired in 2002.

But not only that: the government claimed the clan owed unpaid rentals on the property since 2002 of P1.8 billion. The Prieto/Rufinos’ other big problem is the alleged tax liabilities of its firm that operates the Dunkin’ Donuts chain, amounting to P1.5 billion, that the Duterte administration has been pressing the BIR to collect. Initially stonewalled by compromised BIR bureaucrats, the final prosecution of the case reportedly had been accelerated only this month.

Remarkably for an inefficient, and graft-prone bureaucracy, things moved fast to comply with Duterte’s orders.

I myself knew about it only this month, but in January 26 this year, the Court of Appeals’ 5th Division had issued an order penned by Justice Jose Reyes clearing the legal obstacles to government’s suit on the Mile Long case, which had been there for years. Last week, the court issued its final writ execution, which cannot be appealed anymore.

I suspect this is what PDI president Sandy Prieto was really referring to when she said in a written message to the newspaper’s staff yesterday: “Things have transpired faster than we had anticipated.”

The Prieto/Rufino family therefore became extremely vulnerable to a takeover, and Salim, through his 15 percent stake in the firm obviously already had his foot inside the door. His smart lawyers, who have been so astute as to invent schemes to evade the Constitution, could have thought of some contrivance for him to secretly control PDI.

Ang apparently has clinched the deal with the Prieto/Rufino clan, or else it wouldn’t have been announced the other day.

It is not known whether Salim will sell his remaining 15 percent holdings in PDI. But he will undoubtedly become a minority stockholder, and Ang with his 85 percent of the media group, will have indisputable control.

He will obviously be appointing not only the company’s board and officers, but more importantly its editors who won’t have any qualms, or financial baggage, about publishing the truth about Salim and his conglomerate in the Philippines.

*NOTE:

Salim’s stakes in media have been through PLDT, in which his intermediary firms have the controlling 26 percent bloc. PLDT then used the P10 billion of funds of its employees’ Beneficial Trust Fund–which the Salim-appointed management controls–to set up its media flagship firm MediaQuest. (Refer to chart above.)PLDT’s subsidiary ePLDT also put in P12.5 billion into MediaQuest for its purchase of Philippine Star and BusinessWorld and for setting up Cignal TV. These were in the form of Philippine Depositary Receipts, in order to skirt the Constitution’s total ban on any foreign participation in a media firm.

MediaQuest’s subsidiary Hastings Holdings is Salim’s umbrella group for his print media companies. Under MediaQuest are over two dozen broadcast media outfits, the biggest of which is TV5 and which includes regional TV and radio stations all over the country.

The country’s biggest satellite-to-home provider, CIgnal TV, is also a subsidiary of MediaQuest. MediaQuest also owns Bloomberg TV Philippines, while Ang owns its competitor CNN Philippines. Details in Chapter 8 (“Salim’s media empire: Ultimate transgression of PH sovereignty) in my book Colossal Deception: How Foreign Firms Control Our Telecoms Sector.
Published in Commentaries
POLITICAL actors have traditionally been classified as “left-leaning or right-wing” and at times “centrist” based on their positions on major governance issues such as: role and size of government, welfare policies, production and delivery of public goods, stance towards the private sector and human rights, among other governance issues.

Since the re-start of the Philippines’ life as an independent nation in 1946, we might say that there wasn’t much difference with the two main parties formed, the Nacionalista and Liberal parties, in terms of where they stood in the spectrum. And more telling, the Filipino on the street probably couldn’t tell the difference no matter which political party or mix thereof governed the country.

The Communist Party of the Philippines, while not participating in elections, has long held out a political vision that would be at the other end (leftism) of the spectrum but seeks to govern by victory from a “protracted revolution” to become the governors of the Philippines.

Left-right no polar opposites

The left-right political spectrum is aligned with the idea that communism and capitalism are polar opposites where communism represents the left and capitalism the right. But if we take it from the experience of the common citizen, it might seem that both communism and capitalism, the so-called opposite ends of the spectrum of left and right politics, are actually quite similar in many aspects.

First, both political models are deeply rooted in the idea that society needs powerful, even non-democratic, institutions to create a state that can serve the interests of its citizens. Capitalism uses the non-democratic private corporation as the dominant force to mobilize the state’s resources to create an economy and a certain kind of society with built-in inequalities. Communism also uses non-democratic political institutions and non-democratic state enterprises to do the same thing.

While the means might be different (state planning and allocation of capital vs. private allocation of capital based on “market” prices), in many situations the result is the same: monopoly/oligopoly power, elitism, large gap between the haves and the have nots, information manipulation and a kind of contempt for the ordinary citizen (that their interests are not the same as the interests of the rulers necessarily and theirs can go hang).

Second, both communism and capitalism have little regard for natural and social capital putting these secondary to the need to strengthen the basic institutions like their corporations and the state enterprises. This disregard is formalized in the economic sector through the reliance of the use of the gross domestic product (GDP) growth as a proxy for the performance of the whole state and only secondarily with the resulting welfare of the people and the environment. Since GDP is calculated primarily from the income accounts of the corporations and the state enterprises, it is but natural that both political visions will adopt priority policies to grow GDP. And the primary question now is “how to empower corporations and state enterprises to have more value-added or income in the ensuing year”.

If this increased corporate and enterprise income should come in the form of ripping up nature and marginalizing communities wholesale (logging and mining), then so be it as anyway these things are not counted in coming up with the GDP figures, but certainly the corporate and enterprise profits will be.

Thus, there is a need to articulate a different political spectrum in a way that truly represents polar opposites of each other (and where “centrist” then gets redefined too).

Bottom-up vs trickle-down

In my view, the better definition of a more relevant political spectrum is “bottom-up” versus “trickle-down”. It is vertical rather than the left-right horizontal spectrum. I submit that both capitalism and communism are at the same end of the spectrum: both are trickle-down due to their use of the GDP growth measurement and acknowledgment of corporate/enterprise accounts as primary and community and environment as secondary.

The new political spectrum would pit proponents of policies geared towards either “area development” or its opposite, “sectoral development”. Area development measures the success of the state in making the households generate more and more networth and at the same time the natural capital in the area to be used is as well conserved for future generations without significant degradation. More importantly, area development looks at the growth of the “stock” rather than just the “flows” as sector development does.

To explain this more clearly, if your household has say five citizens in it and is located in a beautiful, nature-endowed village, would the household be counting its progress simply by the amount of income it generated for the year without accounting for the impact on the “stock” or assets of the household in creating that income? If the answer is yes, then sectoral development with its focus on income flows is the dominant political paradigm. If the answer is no, that it matters that the stocks have been degraded, then the political paradigm is aligned with that of area development.

You see, the income (sector dev) could have come from drawing down on the “stock” of the household. Sector dev policies would encourage the conversion of the household’s assets into income flows by, say, removing and selling the trees in the garden, scrapping the top and subsoil and sending it to China as “mineral ore,” selling the work animals, sending the wife abroad to work as an OFW, etc. These would all result in higher family GDP without acknowledging the basic unsustainability of these flows once all the assets or stocks are degraded to the point of dysfunction.

As the world of today only knows of sector development, it is no wonder that there is a great political imbalance (only sectorism) and an illusion of democracy when in fact the people around the world, but most especially here, are being fed only one end of the political spectrum resulting in great social and environmental distress.

It is time to recognize the “bottom-up (area) versus trickle-down (sector)” as the more relevant definition of the political spectrum to have a much clearer democratic choice and better policies that save humanity and planet earth from the madness that only comes with reliance on the singular sectoral development paradigm.

Politics based on area development will result in totally different policies from that of sectoral development and this is why it is important to shift our understanding and appreciation of the political spectrum. With this understanding will come a clearer appreciation of the need for relevant political parties that align themselves along the real political spectrum.
Published in Commentaries
SOCIAL market as the famous politician-economist James Buchanan describes is a desired political and market order. More so, it solidly stands on the principles of efficiency

and effectiveness of functions of a small and proximate government. The small government principle refers to the logic of delineated functions. This however is different from the devolved functions as stipulated in the Local Government Code; these are those powers and functions which are primary and exclusive to a defined tier of a government.

Then again, political order may end up taxing heavily its citizens more than the services it provides. Citizens are willing to pay tax as long as they know where the taxes are going, certainty of amount, and that they benefit from it. This is the cannon law of taxation. Thus, spending of government is associated with the tax, and the activities of its citizens coincide with the size of the economy.

Size of the government refers to the public spending it has to do to achieve relative competitive advantage. These are the public spending on physical, social and institutional. If a government has constituency belonging to middle to low-income class, then the government is expected to be big. Meaning, it has to spend more for health, bridges, police and security, education; all that which improve conditions for greater access and participation of citizens. Then the government will focus on market-support initiatives. Market-support spending are competition-based public expenditures. These are spending for local producers’ ability to compete in the international market by virtue of creating scale production.

The model is just simple. The government has to improve the conditions of its people, restore dignity of work and sense of active citizenship. The formula is also simple; it is keeping tab that there are those who are weak and strong; if let on their own, the strong will abuse the weak. By this account, the formula is to pull up the weak to an economic situation where they can engage freely. On the other hand, the strong must also be supported to create anew and actively produce to increase options in the market. Their property rights, return on innovation and productive engagement are as much protected. Developed countries went through a cycle that we do have now.

Japan did this by shifting from heavy technology to portable electronics, after the war. Then they devalued their currencies to make their exports attractive in the international market. Back home, they improved their systems by introducing Kaizen and Quality Control models. Singapore after separating from Malayan Peninsula decided to create their own nation. They decided to focus strength on their unique feature. They have their strategic location and their people as two resources which made Singaporeans stand taller than the rest. Then there is Germany as well. After the shameful defeat, they decided to protect every life; enthused respect for dignity in every person. They also produced reliable and durable market goods at the same time improved their social institutions. All the examples reveal that strong investment to improve conditions of the individuals will surely pay a lot in the future. It is understanding inclusive growth in its true meaning.

However, there is a clear limit. The limitation is the understanding that the government can only do as much, it can facilitate competitive environment but cannot make it. A competitive environment’s other half is the work of the individuals who believe in the system.

The government protects property rights, encourages innovation, and provides incentives for investment. These are features of capitalism; then again, this country cannot succumb to it alone. Free market leaves the weak and the helpless on their own. Total capitalism cannot be all good for the country. Our culture accelerates the downside of it. We have already too much of regulatory capture, rent-seeking and rent-creation that plagued bureaucracy with corruption.

Huge government spending is the only way to address the number of homeless families, very poor health conditions, high hunger incidence, chronic uneven development, high vulnerability to disaster due to climate change, low productivity, poor manufacturing sector, uncompetitive agriculture sector, massive poverty. This public spending should be viewed in both lens of accountability and responsibility. The government is responsible, yet the people are held accountable. These are vague words unless put in proper format. Social market can address this with its political and market features.

Social market provides solution by creating a big push for growth through a strong government that quells monopoly, destroys regulatory capture, and makes the playing field even. The big push targets the small and medium enterprise to make them competitive. Then the agricultural players are organized into clusters to increase market power. Economies of scale are achieved by the production units. Then human capital investments are ensured through spending on health and education. With highly productive human capital comes employment with effective wage. To a large extent, desire for better, secure and comfortable dwelling is achieved by ordinary households. Then the positive cycle continues. The formula works in other countries, among our neighbor nations. This will also work for us. Social market economy will work in this country under the system of federalism.
Published in Commentaries
Tuesday, 11 July 2017 03:07

AFP says no to 5-yr martial law

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and some lawmakers put their foot down on the proposal to prolong the implementation of martial law by five years, saying there is no basis for it.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said a five-year extension may be “too long” based on the current security situation in Mindanao.

“The Armed Forces, before it makes its recommendation to the Commander-in-Chief, must have enough basis, an intelligent basis to make whatever recommendation there is for the extension or the lifting (of martial law),” Padilla said during the Mindanao Hour news conference in Malacañang.

“We are sticking to some mission profiles that we were provided at the very beginning of martial law. These are the operational considerations,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte had said that the decision to extend or lift martial law in Mindanao will be based on the recommendation of the military.

But Padilla clarified that the AFP can only make recommendations but the final decision rests on political leaders.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier proposed that martial law be implemented until the end of Duterte’s term of office.

“Una, hindi ko alam kung ano ang nagiging batayan ng ating Speaker, kasi isang political decision ang martial law eh [First, we don’t know what was the basis of the Speaker for saying that, because martial law is a political decision],” Padilla said.

“Magrerekomenda lang ang ating Department of National Defense or Armed Forces, pero ang eventual decision ay kinakailangang manggaling sa political leadership na merong mas malawak na pinagbabatayan ng kanilang desisyon [The Department of National Defense or AFP will only recommend but the decision will come from the political leadership that has a wider range of basis for their decision],” he added.

Padilla said the military’s recommendation on the possible extension of martial law will be based on whether or not it has accomplished orders given to troops when martial law was proclaimed.

The military will submit its recommendation to Defense Secretary and martial law administrator Delfin Lorenzana in a “few days,” he added.

Lorenzana will then endorse the document to the President who will make the decision on whether to lift martial law or ask Congress to extend it.

Martial law will expire on July 22.

Alvarez had said that he would push for the extension of martial law in Mindanao until 2022.

Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella clarified that the extension of martial law in Mindanao would be the decision of the President.

“Speaker Alvarez has clarified that his remarks to extend martial law until 2022 is his personal opinion,” Abella said.

Bad for economy

Rep. Harry Roque of Kabayan party-list also on Monday said extending martial law in Mindanao would be bad for the country because it would scare away tourists and investors.

“The President is yet to ask for an extension…but while I was supportive of the initial declaration, I hope that if an extension is made, it will be just for the shortest time possible because declaring martial law is never good for the country. By extending it, it will be a continuing admission before the international community that we are yet to contain rebellion, invasion,” Roque, also the House deputy minority leader, said.

“Under martial law, the military rule is supreme. When the military is supreme and not the civilian authority, it means people without the [electoral]mandate are in charge,” he added.

The Constitution provides the President can only declare martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in cases of rebellion, invasion or when public safety requires it.

“I would be cautious [in extending martial law]. The international community may already conclude that we have long term problems as far as peace and order is concerned, but I can see that martial law is still badly needed in Marawi, in parts of Lanao del Sur and ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) where the extremist groups are based,” Roque said.

“An extended martial law is never good for business, never good for tourism, never good for our international reputation. I will be comfortable if it will be extended for just another 60 days,” he added.

Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, one of the lawmakers who questioned Duterte’s martial law declaration, echoed Roque’s sentiments.

“It stands to reason that any extension should not exceed the original maximum period of 60 days as a provided in the Constitution. The guiding constitutional safeguard is the limited duration of martial law and the suspension

of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus,” Lagman said.

Roque admitted that Congress can extend martial law for as long as it wants to.

“The length [of the extended martial law], will have no more limitation…it’s up to congress to determine how long will it be,” he told reporters.

Representatives Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list and Gary Alejano of Magdao party-list said extending martial law would be “appalling.”

“It’s becoming more evident that the Marawi crisis was merely the pretext, but the Duterte administration’s plan all along is to place all of Mindanao under permanent martial rule. The Duterte administration seems to be ignoring the lesson of history that martial law will not bring peace but only further violence to the people of Mindanao,” Tinio said.

“Extending martial law to 2022, as some have recommended, will practically render the constitutional safeguards useless, which was envisioned by the framers of the 1987 Constitution to avoid the repeat of a Marcos-type martial law,” Alejano said.

Published in News
First of an occasional series on China

I AM quite sure that history will judge that one of President Duterte’s most important achievements is that he steered our country quickly away from what would have been a disastrous path charted by President Aquino and his Yellow Cult: A belligerent stance towards the People’s Republic of China, the superpower in our region, and the second largest economy in the world.

That bellicose foreign policy stance would have been the 21st century rightwing version of Cuba’s and Albania’s leftwing hostility against the US and Europe, the hegemonic power in the second half of the 20th century that completely dominated the Western hemisphere. What did that get Cuba and Albania after seven decades?

The Yellow Cult, following the lead of its US master that was worried about the rise of China in Asia, wanted to demonize it as the regional bully, and exploited our territorial dispute with it in the South China Sea.

This is obvious from the following statement of Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio—who currently leads the campaign of painting China as an imperialist bully—quoted in his e-book The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea.

“This battle to defend our EEZ from China…is the 21st-century equivalent of the battles that our forebears waged against Western and Eastern colonizers from the 16th to the 20th century. The best and the brightest of our forebears fought the Western and Eastern colonizers, and even sacrificed their lives, to make the Philippines free.”

Shanghai in 1987 (above), and in 2014. Even more remarkable, 800 million Chinese were lifted out of poverty in that same 27-year period.

Those statements reflect either Carpio’s ignorance of Philippine history, his intellectual dishonesty, or his inexplicable animosity towards China. Whichever, his statements aren’t becoming of a Supreme Court justice, nor even of an ordinary attorney, whose profession requires the highest level of adherence to facts and logic.

How can Carpio put China’s claims and even recent actions in the South China Sea on par with the Spaniards’ conquest of the Philippines, during which they killed hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, and forced them under pain of death to convert to Catholicism; the US’ war to subjugate the country that resulted in 250,000 Filipinos killed; or the Japanese invasion that led to one million Filipinos killed? (Carpio’s inappropriate comparison does bring up a major point: Has China ever invaded and occupied a far-flung country, as did Spain, the US and Japan?)

A thousand territorial disputes

Look, there are a thousand disputes over territory among the world’s nations. China has over a dozen disputes, with a few, like its claim over Japan-occupied Senkaku islands, and with India near the Himalayan mountains involving swathes of land, in contrast to reefs and small islands in the South China Sea.

But most countries in the world maturely recognize that each country has its own national interests, that such disputes should not be in the forefront of their relations with others. Vietnam had 53 of its navy men killed in its 1974 battle with the Chinese navy which it tried to expel from the waters of the Paracel islands that China claimed. Has Vietnam ever compared the Chinese to its French colonizers and to the Americans that waged a war of aggression against it?

While I will be devoting a few future columns critiquing Carpio’s propaganda vehicle, his e-book, it will suffice to point out the following in this column:

Yes, we have a territorial dispute with the Chinese over the Spratly island group, which Marcos acquired for us in 1978, and over Scarborough Shoal, which we lost because of the Aquino government’s bungling in 2012. We certainly cannot give up these claims.

But, as other claimants over territory in the South China Sea have wisely done, this dispute cannot be at the forefront of our relationship with the emerging superpower, the way former President Aquino did, and for which stance Carpio has been undertaking an intense propaganda campaign.

There is a simple reason why Aquino and Carpio found it easy to get the country to adopt an antagonistic stance towards China, which only a popular President like Duterte—because of his popularity—has been able to reverse.

Because of the US colonization of the country and its brainwashing of our elites, we do not see ourselves as Asians but as America’s little brown brothers. Despite the fact that the US is halfway around the world, some 2 million Filipinos have migrated to the US, and our culture has been more American than Asian. Our eyes have always been fixated on the US and the West, and hardly on Asia. Worse, while most Filipinos understand English, few know Mandarin. We are therefore susceptible to Carpio’s demagoguery that exploits our nationalism.

Astonished

I consider myself as more well-informed than the average Filipino elite, as it is my job as a journalist to be more informed not only about the country but also of the world.

Yet after a recent trip to Beijing, Xian and Shanghai—which also forced me to do much research on China’s system and economic growth—I was astonished at how much I didn’t know about this superpower, which is so near, just a few hours by plane from Manila. It was as if living in a residential subdivision with an American as my best friend and neighbor a few blocks away whom I always socialized with, I was so unaware that an Asian neighbor adjacent to my lot, who just lived in a hut a decade ago, had grown so rich, and had built a mansion.

Indeed, as reflected in editorial cartoons, the image of China among many Filipinos is still the Mao-era place of slant-eyed people in black pajamas, with their cities’ avenues filled not with cars but with bicycles.

Rather than reporting on figures on China’s economy, which are really difficult to wrap your mind around, consider skyscrapers as reflecting a nation’s wealth and modernity.

China now has 1,045 skyscrapers (buildings 150 meters in height or over) in six cities that are in the list of top 10 cities with the most such buildings in the world. The US in this list is a far second, with only 378 skyscrapers, while Japan, 151. (We’re not in this roster of course, having only 82 skyscrapers, all in Metro Manila.) And yes, China’s cities are still filled with bicycles, but now fleets of them rented out by tech companies using hi-tech GPS to track them, with payments done over cell phones. These bicycles are in neat bicycle-only lanes, with the main roads often in horrific traffic – of Porsches, Volvos and Range Rovers.

Such are the cosmopolitan cities of China now, which in 1987 was a poor country with a GDP per capita of only $635, more than half of our $1,412. China overtook us in terms of GDP per capita only in 1999, and is now classified as a middle-income country with a GDP per capita in 2015 of $6,498, two-and-a-half times bigger than our $2,640.

800 million out of poverty

One very impressive accomplishment though should be very relevant to us. According to the World Bank, China lifted out of extreme poverty (those living on $1.90 per day, roughly P96 per day) 800 million of its citizens from 1988 to 2013.

That number is roughly equivalent to eight “Philippines.” How many poor Filipinos have managed to crawl out of poverty after the EDSA Revolution to today? Just 20 million, although the net increase, according to World Bank data, is just 2.5 million because of our population growth, that has bred more poor.

“China’s progress accounted for more than three-quarters of global poverty reduction and is the reason why the world reached the UN millennium development goal of halving extreme poverty,” a recent article in the UK-based The Guardian pointed out. China’s poverty reduction was even seen by several scholars as a “modern miracle’”as never in humankind’s history have so many people been lifted out of poverty in such a short span of time as three decades.

Shouldn’t we be real nationalists concerned about the plight of poor Filipinos so we’ll study how China achieved this feat of making life better for 800 million souls?

Observers and economists steeped in Western liberal-capitalist ideology have noted that China’s move towards a capitalist system explains much of its growth.

This is hogwash. While a significant chunk of its economy is capitalist, much of China’s growth, as I have discovered, is due to a framework totally different from the free-market, capitalist templates the US, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund have been imposing on the developing countries – and us. Some of these important elements, which has been little discussed in the reports on China’s growth are as follows:

• The crucial role of the Communist Party (with its 80 million members) as the disciplined core of its bureaucracy, imbued with a serve-the-people commitment, that has enabled the state to be efficient and undertake swift effective changes in economic policy

• While the West (especially since the Thatcher and Reagan eras) have condemned state corporations, China’s growth owes much to what are called there “state-owned enterprises,” which among other crucial sectors control its telecommunications, power, and other utility firms. Imagine if PLDT, Globe, Meralco, the Aboitiz companies, and other power firms were owned and run efficiently by the state, with its billions of pesos in profits going not to oligarchs but to government, using these for social services and infrastructure. China’s 12 firms that are among the Fortune 500 list of the largest global firms are all state-owned firms. Most of the Chinese cellphone manufacturers – which are now the world’s biggest in this industry – are majority-owned by state firms (ZTE, for example), or secretly, as alleged in the case of Huawei, supported by state financial institutions.

• The crucial role of state banks in funding the country’s infrastructure – now said to be among the most developed for urban areas – and directing development towards industries determined to be important to economic growth. Imagine if instead of posh condominium projects, BDO, Metrobank, BPI were owned by the state, and focused their loans for low-interest medium and small housing projects. Banks here now give minute interests to small depositors, yet lend these funds out at 8 to 12 percent. No wonder these oligarchs just keep growing bigger and bigger.

• China’s template of first trying out on the ground, and on a limited scale, an economic policy before making it a national policy, as in the case of China’s export-processing zones which was experimented first in Guangzhou, before it was adopted in other areas.

• The crucial role of “think-tanks” in China’s government. These are mostly independent institutions staffed by academics which are commissioned by government or state corporations to undertake detailed, objective studies of an issue or a course of action, before these are actually undertaken. According to the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program database, China has 435, coming in second place to the US which has 1,835 think tanks. In our case, do we really have a single, independent think-tank?

I will discuss these elements and a few others that contributed much to China’s growth, in the succeeding installments of this series.
Published in Commentaries
Thursday, 06 July 2017 09:59

The Deegong, the imperial President

Last of a 3-part series

THE Philippine presidency consists of the President, his immediate staff and the collective units, principally the Cabinet, reporting directly to the President. Handed down by the US colonial administration, our presidential system hews closely to the American model, although there are dissimilarities. Traditionally, the Philippine presidency encompasses the whole Executive Department, following the cherished republican ideal of “checks and balances” among the three major branches of government.

President Duterte’s official acts, and those of his Cabinet and advisers are what constitute the collective decisions of the Office of the President (OP). The Cabinet is the primary bureaucracy from where the levers of presidential powers are exercised, and monitoring and feedback mechanisms are coursed. In organizational parlance, the Cabinet is a line function. Advisory bodies develop around the presidency complementing the Cabinet, and have staff functions along with the President’s personal coterie. There is a distinction between the two sets of bodies within the OP: the preeminent Cabinet secretaries whose appointments are confirmed by the congressional Commission on Appointments, and the appointed presidential personal staff and advisers that are not answerable to Congress and therefore owe personal loyalty to the President.

Like an impresario, the President conducts the country’s affairs through these disparate groups of people who by the very nature of their jobs are required to possess political skills aside from the particular expertise for which the President have chosen them. The integral element in running effectively the executive offices is their proximity to the President. By definition too, this proximity is equated with power; and power is the main currency in the political dynamics.

This is the contemporary structure of the presidency in a republican framework. Its precedents go back to the “royal court” of a monarchy where the occupants were solely answerable to the sovereign. The monarchical structure no longer exists but the vestiges of the archaic interactions and presidential largesse are still ritually dispensed upon the select; but also, the immediate and deadly retribution upon the disfavored. The current President almost solely determines the fate of his subordinates, giving the premium for their survival in the bureaucracy the trait of telling him only what he wants to hear.

Alpha male PresidentThe President’s strongman demeanor is a real one and has been honed through the cauldron of his political experience in a city once controlled by criminal and ideologically unacceptable elements. These problems were often solved, by his own admission, by disregarding some “niceties of the rule of law”. His no-nonsense approach to political governance was effective locally and he is now applying the formula on a larger scale, for the whole country. PRRD is a self-directed public manager always setting his own goals, pushing the boundaries of discretion. And here is where it becomes complicated.

How do his subalterns relate with an alpha male of a President? In this particular case, President Duterte’s presence is the dominating specter hovering over the OP; and with his propensity to act decisively on a mere “whiff of corruption,” this, I submit, strikes fear in the hearts of even the virtuous. Add to that his propensity to act and decide without proper consultation with his Cabinet. Indeed, a dominant and domineering personality will intimidate the people around him. As a counter-measure, the participation of alpha males/females in the Cabinet is an imperative. Strong Presidents should have strong-minded advisers. The absence of an ardent “imperial court of advisers” to the presidency is a disservice to an office where policy discourse on good governance is primarily fueled by healthy debate and a clash of ideas.

Echoing Schlesinger’s hypothesis on the making of an imperial presidency, all of the above contribute to the weakness of a presidency in a republican state that allows the appearance of an imperial President with “strongman” attributes. President Rodrigo Duterte fits this description.

Weak checking mechanism

Two other elements contribute to the making of an imperial presidency; a weak, or the absence of a, checking mechanism of Congress and the Constitution itself. Part 1 of this series (“Self-castration of Congress”) described how both houses of the legislative branch surrendered their prerogatives in checking the executive branch.

As to the Constitution, the President has not yet been proven to have breached any of its dictates but his constant threats against its ultimate arbiter and interpreter, the Supreme Court, comes close to a transgression.

Pimentel reacts to Duterte defying SC, Congress:“Alarmed, but no need to act”(May 29, 2017 @inquirerdotnet)

“Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd on Monday defended President Rodrigo Duterte from critics, saying he did not violate the law by making remarks about defying the Supreme Court (SC) and Congress on martial law.”

Duterte defies Supreme Court (@inquirerdotnet, August 10, 2016)

“I’m giving you a warning. Don’t create a crisis because I will order everybody in the executive department not to honor you,” Mr. Duterte told (Supreme Court Chief Justice) Sereno, in his remarks before the military in Cagayan de Oro City.

“You want me to be frank? You’re interfering (with my job)… Please, don’t order me. I’m not a fool. If this continues, (that) you’re trying to stop me, I might lose my cool. Or would you rather I declare martial law?”

The proposition that now shapes the national conversation is whether President Duterte, with all his flaws, is what this country needs. In Part 1 & 2 of this series, a case was being developed that the frustrations of the Filipino—stark poverty and corruption in all levels of government; the downward spiral toward stasis from the early days of the Republic— precipitated the seething anger that found relief from an outsider whose message and personality resonated with the voters. Duterte the foul-mouth visionary whose claim to fame is the deliverance of a city from the political abyss of centralized government neglect, carpeted his governance with the corpses of the “dregs of society”. He openly declared as his platform that he will do the same for the whole country if elected President. We elected him President.

His current 75 percent support from the populace reinforced its clarion call for such a man and certainly put to rest the question that the Filipino needs this imperial President Rodrigo Duterte.
Published in LML Polettiques
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